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Illegal drug sales booming online

The quantity of illegal and possibly unsafe pharmaceutical drugs being sold online is increasing, according to a report from the International Narcotics Control Board.The 2005 annual report from the INCB estimates that 'billions of doses' of prescription medicine are sold illicitly over the Internet every year.
Written by Munir Kotadia, Contributor on
The quantity of illegal and possibly unsafe pharmaceutical drugs being sold online is increasing, according to a report from the International Narcotics Control Board.

The 2005 annual report from the INCB estimates that 'billions of doses' of prescription medicine are sold illicitly over the Internet every year. The drugs, which are normally only available with a prescription and from a licensed pharmacy, include oxycodone, amphetamines, diazepam and secobarbital -- the latter posing 'possibly fatal health risks' without medical supervision.

President of the board, Professor Hamid Ghodse said that in order to tackle the problem there should be a two pronged attack. Firstly countries should cooperate more and share information in order to cut off the suppliers and secondly, potential customers should be made aware of the health risks.

"Meaningful action against such illicit activities requires close international cooperation and, above all, the political will of all governments to accord importance to the matter," said Ghodse.

The majority of illegal pharmacies advertise their drugs using spam, which has already caught the attention of Microsoft. The software giant last month teamed up with Viagra-maker Pfizer to launch a number of lawsuits against spammers and Web site owners that were allegedly selling 'dangerous' prescription drugs.

According to Microsoft, the illegal medicine distributors have sent "hundreds of millions" of spam messages to Hotmail customers using techniques that violate the US Can-Spam Act of 2003.

Jeff Kindler, executive vice president and general counsel at Pfizer said the action was necessary to protect the general public from the health risks associated with fake, illegal and unapproved products that claim to be Viagra.

"Pfizer is joining with Microsoft on these actions as part of our shared pledge to reduce the sale of these products and to fight the senders of unsolicited e-mail that overwhelms people's inboxes," said Kindler.

Microsoft estimates that adverts for male fertility drugs account for around one in four spam e-mails.

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